Two Legislative Incumbents Face Primary Defeat

Democrats Ellen Rosenblum and Dwight Holton vie to become Oregon's next attorney general. The primary winner Tuesday could become the incumbent before this fall.Two legislative incumbents could get the boot in Tuesday's primary election, and Democratic voters will effectively decide who will be the next Oregon attorney general. What happens in the tight Portland mayoral race is anyone's guess, including pollsters.

Democratic Rep. Mike Schaufler of Happy Valley and GOP Senator Chris Telfer of Bend face unusually tough challenges in their respective primaries, with some political observers and pollsters predicting both could lose.

Schaufler is being opposed by political newcomer Jeff Reardon, while Telfer faces a challenge from former House Majority Leader Tim Knopp. 

Schaufler's race, which has seen support thrown to Reardon by some of his House Democratic colleagues, is an example of what can happen when a political figure on the philosophical edge of his or her caucus gets entangled in a controversy. Schaufler was accused last year of groping a woman lobbyist at a labor convention, which resulted in him being stripped of his chairmanship of a key House committee.

Telfer's contest is somewhat similar, but aggravated by complaints that she didn't talk regularly to constituents or lobbyists. Knopp certainly offers more red-meat appeal to the conservative Republican base than Telfer. He also may have more statewide political appeal than Telfer, who ran unsuccessfully in 2010 for state treasurer.

In the attorney general's race, two Democrats, Dwight Holton and Ellen Rosenblum, are duking it out over who would be tougher on corporate criminals, deadbeat dads and marijuana users. Both have high-profile campaigns with top-level political endorsements. Whoever wins Tuesday will face only token opposition in the fall. Republicans failed to field a candidate, but are trying to mount a write-in campaign so there is at least somebody on the ballot in November. 

Since Attorney General John Kroger plans to leave office this summer to become president of Reed College, Governor Kitzhaber will be under pressure to appoint the winner of the Democratic primary to complete the rest of Kroger's term, allowing him or her to run this fall as the incumbent.

Portland's mayoral race has attracted a relentless series of forums, debates and joint appearances, but no clear favorite. The top three candidates — Eileen Brady, Charlie Hales and Jefferson Smith — have topped various polls in recent weeks, making it almost certain no one will win outright, but unclear which two candidates will fight on into the fall.

Brady seemed to be a lock to make it to the final, but a recent poll suggests her campaign has stalled, while Smith's has picked up. Most differences on issues among the candidates seem minute. However, Smith has created some political distance for his candidacy by taking a harder stand against the current Columbia River Crossing proposal, which he calls unrealistic and untenable. Meanwhile, Hales, who has sharply improved his stump performances, has remained pretty much in the number two spot in polls.

The run-off pairing may come down to who votes, and when they voted. Voters who cast their mail-in ballots earlier may not have picked up on Smith's apparent political zephyr.

Most other races in the primary are routine. The GOP presidential selection process has all but anointed Mitt Romney. Democratic Secretary of State Kate Brown faces only token opposition. Treasurer Ted Wheeler doesn't have an opponent on either side of the political aisle.

The primary will be the breeze before the storm this fall when Democrats and Republicans clash for control of the Oregon House and Senate — and the opportunity to have more control of the state's political agenda.